The best independent guide to Cascais
The best independent guide to Cascais
Cascais is the premier resort town of the Lisbon region, boasting a wide variety of sights and activities.
At the heart of Cascais is its delightful historic centre, packed with shops, restaurants, bars and grand 19th-century villas. Surrounding the town is a beautiful coastline of sandy beaches, while to the north is the dramatic scenery of the Serra de Sintra.
Cascais is an exciting and buzzing holiday destination, and the sheer variety of attractions within the town makes it one of the best day trips to take from Lisbon.
This article details the best sights and activities of Cascais, as well as the best sights of the surrounding region if you’re planning a holiday to this wonderful town.
Insight: We've created two lists; one if you're planning a day trip to Cascais, and a second for the surrounding region if you're planning a holiday to the region.
Top 5 sights of Cascais for a day trip
1. The Condes de Castro museum 2. The Boca do Inferno cliff formation 3. The Praia da Rainha beach 4. The Cascais to Estoril beach promenade 5. Casa de Santa Maria and lighthouse
Top 5 sights for a holiday to Cascais
1. Day trip to Sintra 2. Day trip to Lisbon 3. The Cabo da Roca cliffs 3. Praia de Carcavelos (beach) 5. Surfing on the Praia do Guincho
Below is an interactive map which shows the best sights of Cascais (green) and of the surrounding area (blue). Note: Zoom in or out to see the location of all of the points
Sights of Cascais (green): 1. Condes de Castro 2. Boca do Inferno cliffs 3. Praia da Rainha 4. Cascais to Estoril promenade 5. Casa de Santa Maria and lighthouse 6. Casa das Histórias Paula Rego 7. Fortress da Luz de Cascais 8. Parque Marechal Carmona 9. Cascais Marina 10. Museu do Mar Rei Dom Carlos I
Sights of Cascais region (blue): 1. Sintra (day trip) 2. Lisbon (day trip) 3. Cabo da Roca (hiking and watching sunset) 4. Praia de Carcavelos (beach day) 5. Praia do Guincho (surfing) 6. The N247 (scenic drive) 7. Cycle to Guincho beach 8. Oeiras coastal promenade 9. Oitavos Dunes golf course 10. Casino Estoril
The following section while detail the highlights of Cascais in greater depth
Related articles: Day trip to Cascais - Cascais beaches - Sintra guide – Lisbon guide
The Condes de Castro Guimarães is the grandest villa in Cascais. Situated on the edge of the Parque Marechal Carmona, its cheery yellow exterior features a neo-gothic tower and whimsical ornaments.
The villa was constructed in 1902 by Jorge O'Neil, an Irish tobacco millionaire, and the museum displays furniture and art from his personal collection. The highlight of the museum is a 16th-century manuscript that includes one of the oldest images of Lisbon.
To the north of Cascais is a jagged coastline of highly-weathered cliffs that are battered by the ferocious Atlantic Ocean.
The Boca do Inferno is a unique coastal feature - a sea cave that has collapsed, leaving just an arch in the rocks that was once the entrance to the cave. During winter storms, huge waves crash through the opening and spray is expelled upwards - however, it will be significantly less dramatic on a calm summer's day!
The Boca do Inferno is a pleasant 20-minute walk from the marina, and will make an interesting addition to your day trip.
The Boca do Inferno
Waves crashing through the Boca do Inferno on a blustery January day
The Praia da Rainha is a small but picturesque beach right in the centre of Cascais. The beach is so pretty that in 1889 it was chosen by Queen Amélia as her private beach, and has been known as the Praia da Rainha (Queen's Beach) ever since.
The pretty Praia da Rainha, as chosen by a queen...
The Paredão de Cascais is a scenic coastal promenade that extends between Cascais and Estoril. This footpath passes many of the region's small sandy beaches, such as Praia da Rata, Praia do Tamariz and Praia da Poça, as well as the impressive 19th-century villas that line the beachside.
The Paredão de Cascais is the best short walk in Cascais, beginning at the Praia da Duquesa beach and heading eastwards for 2.3km to the Praia da Azarujinha in Estoril.
Insight: If you're planning a day trip to Cascais, the promenade passes Estoril train station (1.7km from the Praia da Duquesa). From here, you can catch the train back to Lisbon.
The Paredão de Cascais passes the Duques de Palmela palace and the Alberto Romano sea swimming pool
Cascais is a fun destination for a holiday, with a vibrant and buzzing atmosphere during the summer. The town is packed with friendly restaurants and lively bars, and there is always something happening in the evenings and at night. In the summer, Cascais attracts a mix of ages and nationalities and is a fantastic place to be based.
The many bars and restaurants along the Alameda Combatentes street
The Cabo da Roca headland is the most westerly point of mainland Europe, and is a barren, wind-swept landscape comprising of colossal cliffs and raging Atlantic waters. The main attraction of the Cabo da Roca is the raw beauty of nature, and is a magical location from which to watch the sun set over the vast Atlantic Ocean.
From the Cabo da Roca is a 2km coastal trail to the Praia da Ursa beach, one of the most beautiful beaches of the Lisbon region.
The powerful lighthouse at the Cabo da Roca
The Praia da Ursa beach is one of the most beautiful beaches of the Lisbon region
The beautiful Praia da Duquesa and Praia da Conceição are two linked beaches that form the largest sandy stretch in Cascais, offering a fantastic setting for a beach day.
This beach boasts golden sands, calm sea waters and a myriad of activities (kayaks, inflatables) along with a wide selection of beach bars and cafes. The calm and clean sea waters are perfect for families.
The Praia da Conceição beach
The Casa de Santa Maria was constructed as a wedding gift by Jorge O'Neil (who constructed the Condes de Castro) for his daughter. The house bucked the trends of the 1910s era, being constructed in a traditional Portuguese style using locally sourced materials.
Standing next to the Casa de Santa Maria is Cascais' lighthouse, with its unique quadrangular tower lined with blue and white tiles.
Praia do Guincho is a vast sandy beach that is exposed to strong prevailing winds and the huge waves of the Atlantic, making it ideal for surfing and kite surfing. Guincho beach is surrounded by the dramatic and unspoilt natural scenery of the Serra da Sintra, with its wind-swept hills and lush forests.
There is an 8km cycle path that connects Cascais to the Praia do Guincho. The path follows the rugged coastline and passes the Casa da Guia market, the Cabo Raso lighthouse and the Fortaleza do Guincho. As there are no hills along the route, hiring some bikes to cycle this path is an enjoyable half-day activity while on holiday to Cascais.
The Praia do Guincho with clouds covering the hills of the Serra da Sintra
Paula Rego (1935-2022) is one of Portugal's most prominent modern artists, whose colourful artworks depicted sinister stories in a figurative style (a modern art style that retains strong references to the real world).
The Casa das Histórias Paula Rego displays many of her finest pieces of work, housed in a distinctive building that was based upon the Palácio Nacional in Sintra.
The bold design of the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, with the two towers that represent the National Palace in Sintra
The Parque Marechal Carmona are the pretty gardens that surround the Condes de Castro Guimarães mansion. These tranquil gardens include a duck pond, a petting zoo, flower gardens, and a family of peacocks.
The Capela de Sao Sebastião in the Parque Marechal Carmona
This small but informative museum details the fishing heritage of Cascais and the history of fishing within Portugal. Contained within the museum are model boats, historical exhibits and fishing artefacts. The museum is housed in the former royal residence of King Carlos, with the museum being named after him.
The Sea Museum is housed in the king's former private residence
The 16th-century Cidadela de Cascais is a mighty fort that once guarded the mouth of the Tejo Estuary, with its massive walls and imposing battlements designed to withstand seaward cannon attacks.
Today the fort has been transformed into a stylish hotel and high-end artisan centre.
The Cidadela de Cascais towers above the fishing harbour
The Mercado da Vila is the traditional covered market of Cascais, offering a range of stalls selling freshly caught fish, local produce and handicrafts. Within the market are a beautiful set of Azulejos tile paintings that depict the history and heritage of Cascais.
Local sweets, cakes and pastries for sale in the market
The Casa da Guia is a trendy shopping complex and dining area, which is situated in the grounds of a grand 19th-century house. The shops and stalls offer high-end designer gifts, while the restaurants provide stunning views over the ocean.
The Praia da Ursa is the most stunning of the beaches of the Serra de Sintra coastline, and the location to escape the tourist masses.
This remote beach sits at the base of a steep cliff, and is reached via dirt tracks and a footpath that scrambles down the side of the collapsed cliff. The Praia da Ursa is distinctive for its two huge rocky outcrops; sections of harder cliffs which have withstood the power of the Atlantic Ocean. These rocky islands give the beach its name as the ‘Rocha da Ursa’ supposedly looks like a bear (ursa in Portuguese)
Insight: There is a very scenic 1.7km coastal path from the Cabo da Roca to the Praia da Ursa, and this path is the suggestion to extend a visit to the Cabo da Roca.
The Praia da Ursa as seen from the coastal footpath to the Cabo da Roca
There are better locations to parking than this…